Green Valley, Arizona is a retirement community that is home to over 20,000 people from all over North America, plus 8,000 seasonal residents who come to enjoy our mild winters. There are 14 recreational centers in Green Valley for Green Valley Recreation (GVR) card-holding members to enjoy through participation in hobby clubs, classes, fitness centers and social activities.
Browse the GVR seasonal catalog of classes at their website www.gvrec.org .
When we were young…
In the beginning, in 1965, you would find men cutting and polishing beautiful rock cabochons at the first lapidary workshop in the East Social Center. The Woodworking Club and Lapidary Club shared the same space. That was the main focus of their work, as their interest started in “rock hounding.”
Before Green Valley Recreation came into being in the late 1960s, each community within Green Valley had its own club with separate facilities. Today, fifty years later, three lapidary workshops, administratively joined as the GVR Lapidary and Silversmith Club, are available to club members.
In southern Arizona, it’s not difficult to find a rock with special minerals that you can turn into a beautiful gemstone that can be incorporated into a piece of hand-crafted jewelry. Examples are: Mexican Lace, Tiger Eye, Turquoise, Malachite, Chrysophase and Petrified Wood.
In 1967, when the woodworkers moved into a space in the maintenance building, the Lapidary Club purchased more rock-cutting saws and polishing wheels from club dues and jewelry sales. Club membership grew and GVR appointed Carl Schubert to supervise the lapidary work. Members enjoyed rock hunts, displays in gem shows, and the annual Pima County Fair, where they could learn from other rock hounds.
In the club's formative years, Alex Hilstrom, Joe Laven, Frank Cameron, and Mildred Philbin contributed much to the success and popularity of the club. Over the years, interest in jewelry making has flourished, and our members now design elegant silver, copper, brass, and sometimes gold, jewelry.
The East Center location of the club traces its roots back to 1965 when the Lapidary and Woodworking Clubs shared a small space of about 1,000 square feet at East Center. The club’s early focus was on rock hounding and polishing stones. Eventually new members became more interested in making their own jewelry and the club's focus shifted to include silversmithing, followed by lost wax metal casting. The East Center shop added what had been the Photography Club’s darkroom (now the kiln room) in 2007. The adjacent room was added later and is currently used as a club classroom and meeting room. The first arts fairs were for club members only and were held around the East Center pool during the annual October parade.
The GVR Lapidary & Silversmith Club is one of the foremost lapidary clubs in North America!
The GVR Lapidary & Silversmith Club has evolved into a large, non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to promoting hobbies for those who are interested in learning lapidary, silversmithing, and other jewelry crafts. Currently, the club operates three well-equipped facilities at the West Center, East Center and Desert Hills, and provides instruction, workshops and a welcoming atmosphere conducive to the development and expansion of members’ talents. In addition, each lapidary shop has a retail sales display area with beautiful, hand-crafted jewelry that can be purchased by GVR members and their guests.
In the past fifteen years, the club has expanded into Dichroic Glass, Precious Metal Clay, Chain Maille, Metalsmithing, Metal Forming, Kumihimo, and other disciplines related to jewelry making. These activities have incorporated the interests of a much broader segment of the GVR membership without straying too far from our original mandate.
We encourage anyone with a creative interest to try a beginning class, join the club, and practice in the shops (click on the Centers tab for hours). The seasonal GVR course catalog lists all of the GVR Lapidary and Silversmith Club classes that are available. (The catalog is available on the GVR website: www.gvrec.org , click on Recreation, then Classes.) In addition, our excellent instructors frequently offer member-only workshops for practicing newly acquired skills; ask your class instructor for details.
Every November, for over 50 years, the GVR Lapidary and Silversmith Club has sponsored the annual Artisans Festival which features the work of more than 100 artisans from across the GVR community. Many of our members also participate in the annual Green Valley Arts and Crafts Fair sponsored by the GVR Arts and Crafts Club in the spring. These popular events showcase the tremendous artistic talent in Green Valley and provide a wonderful recreational activity for the local community, as well as visitors from across the country and Canada.
BACK DOOR TO THE CLUB
Some of our members shared their experiences:
Interview with Debby R.
"I got into making my own jewelry via the back door. I spent most of my life, before Green Valley, as a Pediatric nurse, raising 3 children. This gave me no time for hobbies but I always loved jewelry, especially South West designs.
When my husband and I retired, we settled into our new life and home in Green Valley. We began pursuing classes at GVR that particularly interested us. I started with Lapidary class, followed by Silversmith, Chain Maille, Metal Forming and PMC. I found these classes soothing and calming and realized I found my niche. I am now a monitor at East Center on Monday afternoon. With no prior experience in this field, I was pleasantly surprised at my success. I cannot thank all my new friends and helpers enough for my new-found arts. I always carry my tool case in my car in case I have a period of time to create my next piece."
"If you want to learn to do something new in your retirement don’t be afraid to try. There's lots of friendly help available through GVR classes."
Interview with Don M.
I’ve loved art since first grade but jewelry/lapidary work was never in my vision. I was a Landscape Architect with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, mainly designing Rest Areas, for many years.
My wife and I came to Green Valley because it was warm and no, or very few, mosquitoes. We researched many different cities but ultimately settled on Green Valley because of GVR and its many facilities.
When I got here I found I was interested in the Lapidary/Silversmith, Hiking Club, Clay Studio and the Woodcarvers Club. I have taken Lapidary, Silversmith, Flex Shaft, Channeling, Inlay and Wax Carving. In the process of my learning curve, Harry LaFavor, a long time leader in the Lapidary/Silversmith Club, took me under his wing. With his help and encouragement I became experienced in all the forms of jewelry making and also learned repair work. I help with Silversmith Classes, Jewelry finishing Techniques and have previously taught Channeling Classes (that is wonderful but takes a lot of patience). I am also a daily monitor at East Center, where I do repair work.
What I like best is the opportunity to be creative. I also like working with people who are friendly and helpful and share my love of jewelry making and design. Last, but not least, is having all the equipment we have available either at East Center, West Center or Desert Hills. Thanks to GVR and all the many, many hours of volunteer work, we are so lucky to be able to share.
“With confidence you can learn new skills to do almost everything”
Interview with Rich S.
I got into Lapidary through the back door. This was nowhere in my vision until I moved to Green Valley. I was a Veterinarian until I sold my practice in 2009. Then a new window opened to me. I always was fascinated with rocks and stones and I loved hiking and searching for them, but didn’t get beyond that until I bought a 14” stone saw, a grinder and a sander. Now I looked for different rocks with an eye on how I could turn them into a real treasure.
My wife and I had been visiting my in-laws in Green Valley since 1980 so it was with great expectations we were able to move here (part time) in 2010. I was drawn to the Lapidary Club and was amazed by the equipment available at GVR. This was perfect with my love of rocks.
I have hiked many places to look for unusual rocks including one of my favorites, Pinedale, Wyoming. I now volunteer at various Indian Reservations in New Mexico (Zuni) and Arizona (Navajo and Hopi) which adds to my search areas. Once on a dairy farm my father found a nearly perfect arrowhead. This I have used in my new found craft of casting. If fact, broom casting was one of my favorite classes. I have helped teach classes in metal forming and collar forging. I also monitor at Desert Hills. What I like most about the Lapidary/Silversmith Club is the friendships I’ve formed, helpfulness of everyone and camaraderie.
“Even if you never thought you could be creative, you can and will learn to be creative by taking advantage of Lapidary/Silversmith classes.”